06 January 2012

How Would You Handle This?

I've had a situation tonight that I just need to vent about and maybe, just maybe, get some insight into how I could have handled this.  So please, leave your thoughts on this in the comments section because I'd really like your input.

The Situation, and How I Handled It

It is actually a multi-part situation, starting when Teddy got home from school.  He came in the door, relatively happy, and asked for something to eat.  I told him I'd peel a Cutie for him, but he said he didn't want that.  He wanted a fruit snack.  In his mind, a fruit snack was as good as fruit.  I told him that no, a fruit snack wasn't fruit, even though it has the word fruit in it's name.  I tried to remind him that we're trying to eat healthier now.  His response was to throw shoes and toys at me, run up to me to head-butt me, and try to knock me off balance.  With each thing he did, I escalated punishment: No electronics, no dessert, taking away his brand new Angry Bird, sending him to bed early.  I told him to go sit on the stairs, yet the yelling and hitting and throwing continued until I took a step toward him.  Only then did he do what he was told.

This is when I stopped and took a breath.  I knew that I'd been making the situation worse rather than getting him to calm down.  Escalating punishments don't work with him.  But sometimes I get anger locked.  So I took a deep breath and sat on the step below him.  I explained, as calmly and as understandingly as I could, why I preferred him to have a clementine rather than the fruit snacks - the fruit snacks aren't as healthy as the fruit is, the fruit snacks are a "sometimes" food, saved for lunches rather than after school snacks (he gets both a packet of fruit snacks and a clementine for lunch, along with his sandwich and drink).  I don't know if he understood what I was saying - it's hard for a 5 year old to understand that "fruit snack" is more a clever marketing ploy than it is gospel truth.  But I did also tell him that I'd overreacted by putting so many punishments on him, and that I was (for the moment) bringing it back to just one.

Initially, I said "no electronics", but then remembered the package that came in the mail today. We'd bought Teddy a used DS (so we could have our own DS's back) for his birthday and were considering giving it to him as an early birthday gift (so we could have our own DS's back sooner).  If Rich decided he wanted to give it to him tonight, I didn't want to put the kibosh on that.  So I changed it to no dessert instead.  There was some wailing and gnashing of teeth at that - he really wanted the last of the pistachio ice cream.  But finally he accepted it.

Before I had a chance to come back to the computer (finishing some maintenance for my other two blogs), he'd run in here to get on the computer.  Because, obviously, Mommy saying that electronics weren't taken away meant he had the right to be on the computer right at that moment.  I told him that he needed to finish up a few things first, and then I would let him be on the computer.  He wasn't happy with it, but this house isn't a democracy... or even if it were, he's not of voting age yet.  Three or four times, within 10 minutes, he came in asking, "Can I use the computer now?"  And each time I told him that he needed to be patient, I was still finishing up what I was in the middle of.

The last time he got this answer, he laid down on the floor and switched off the power strip that all of the computer equipment is plugged into.  I don't have a battery backup.  So everything I was working on went away. (Thankfully for auto-save, I didn't have to reconstruct too much once the computer was back up and running.)  Immediately, I told him that he'd lost computer privileges for the rest of the day.  No computer, no DS, no GameBoy, no choosing what was on the television.  No electronics, period.  "But, Mommy," he cried, "I just wanted to find out what it would do!"  He's smart enough to know what it does, since it looks exactly like the one in the living room that his brother turns on and off, plunging us into darkness.

I was hot.  Very hot.  I told him to go upstairs to his room.  I needed time to calm down.  But within a minute, I heard him coming back downstairs.  "I want an orange, Mommy."  Too late.  Back to your room.  There was quite a bit of this back and forth, including threats that he'd be in bed for the rest of the night.  Once I got calmed down, I told him (since this time he'd actually made it downstairs) that Daddy and I would talk about it when he got home, but he needed to stay in his room until Daddy got home.  He misunderstood it to mean that he would stay downstairs until Daddy got home and became very angry when I told him to go upstairs... multiple times.

This time, my limit was reached.  Because in his anger, he came into the dining room and toppled over our recycling bins.  We've got a two-tiered set that also is a bit of a catch-all for stuff, so there was a lot that went spilling all over the floor when he pushed it down.  I told him to get upstairs and that he was going to be in bed for the rest of the night.  I did NOT want to see him, hear from him or even know he existed for the rest of the night.

Of course, he doesn't stay where he's supposed to.  He's five.  Following directions still isn't high on their priority list.  While I was cleaning up the mess (which also gave me a good excuse to weed through a few of the things as I'd been meaning to all week), he came downstairs again.  With tears in his eyes, he told me, "But Mommy, I was going to clean it up."  At this point, I was still too angry.  I knew that having him clean up his own mess SHOULD have been what I had him do.  But I needed the activity to get myself back under control.  I told him that he needed to go back upstairs to his room.

He's only been downstairs one time since then and that was only partway down the stairs.  It was to apologize to me for knocking over the recycling bin.  I accepted his apology and told him that he needed to go back upstairs.  When Daddy got home, we'd all talk about it.  And right now, Daddy's home, so it's time to talk.

But before I go, I want to ask.... how would you have handled this?